A Foggy Day in Maynooth

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on January 23, 2020 by telescoper

It was quite foggy this morning as I made my way into work, the Gothic architecture of St Patrick’s House adding to the eeriness. It didn’t seem to bother our resident feline, however, who was looking particularly handsome..

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

Posted in Television with tags , on January 22, 2020 by telescoper

So Terry Jones has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet his maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. In fact I bet he’s playing the organ for them:

The loss of a life is no laughing matter, but I’m sure Terry Jones wouldn’t mind the references to the Parrot Sketch. We should try to remember him for the laughter he gave us before that cruel bastard dementia started to take him away.

May he rest in peace.

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

Signs of the Times

Posted in Maynooth, Politics with tags , , , , , on January 21, 2020 by telescoper

I’ve spent most of today on a secret mission so I’ve just going to do a brief post before I go home.

Since there’s a General Election campaign going on in Ireland, I thought I’d share the above picture I took on the Kilcock Road. Posters like this are a bit of a tradition at election time in Ireland. I’ve never seen anything like them in England or Wales. I’m told posters like this started going up in Dublin the day the election was announced, but it took a day or two for them to appear in Maynooth. There has been talk of banning this sort of display on environmental grounds, but they’re still here.

Other news on the election  is that two opinion polls have been published that must make uncomfortable reading for the incumbent Taioseach Leo Varadkar and his Fine Gael party. The results with breakdown of first-preference votes for Fine Gael (FG), Fianna Fáil (FF) and Sinn Féin (SF) are:

  • Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitude: FF 32%; FG 20%; SF 19%
  • Irish Times/IPSOS-MRBI: FF 25%; FG 21%; SF 21%

Both are based on quite small samples (923 and 1200 respectively) and consequently have quite large margins of error (3.3% and 2.8% respectively) so one shouldn’t get too excited by the fact that they differ by quite a bit. Moreover the transferable vote system adopted in Irish elections makes it difficult to translate the percentage of first-preference votes into seats in the Dáil because that depends a lot on transfers of lower-ranked preferences. I would however make the inference that it’s very unlikely that any party will get an overall majority on February 8th.

Another thing I’d say is that regardless of one’s voting preferences it seems to me quite wrong for the state broadcaster to pretend that this is a two-horse race and exclude Sinn Féin’s leader Mary Lou McDonald from its planned election debate. The Fine Gael leader seems very opposed to SF being represented in this debate and in my opinion it would serve him right if his party ended up in third place.

Oh, and I should point out that as a consequence of the referendum held in 2018, as of January 2020 blasphemy is no longer a criminal offence in Ireland.

 

Not the Open Journal of Astrophysics Impact Factor – Update

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 20, 2020 by telescoper

Now that we have started a new year, and a new volume of the Open Journal of Astrophysics , I thought I would give an update with some bibliometric information about the 12 papers we published in 2019.

It is still early days for aggregating citations for 2019 but, using a combination of the NASA/ADS system and the Inspire-HEP, I have been able to place a firm lower limit on the total number of citations so far for those papers of 408, giving an average citation rate per paper of 34.

These numbers are dominated by one particular paper which has 327 citations according to Inspire (see above). Excluding this paper gives an average number of citations for the remaining 11 of 7.4.

I’ll take this opportunity to re-iterate some comments about the Journal Impact Factor. When asked about this my usual response is (a) to repeat the arguments why the impact factor is daft and (b) point out that we have to have been running continuously for at least two years to have an official impact factor anyway.

For those of you who can’t be bothered to look up the definition of an impact factor , for a given year it is basically the sum of the citations for all papers published in the journal over the previous two-year period divided by the total number of papers published in that journal over the same period. It’s therefore the average citations per paper published in a two-year window. The impact factor for 2019 would be defined using data from 2017 and 2018, etc.

The impact factor is prone to the same issue as the simple average I quoted above in that citation statistics are generally heavily skewed and the average can therefore be dragged upwards by a small number of papers with lots of citations (in our case just one).

I stress again we don’t have an Impact Factor for the Open Journal. However, for reference (but obviously not direct comparison) the latest actual impact factors (2018, i.e. based on 2016 and 2017 numbers) for some leading astronomy journals are: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 5.23; Astrophysical Journal 5.58; and Astronomy and Astrophysics 6.21.

My main point, though, is that with so much bibliometric information available at the article level there is no reason whatsoever to pay any attention to crudely aggregated statistics at the journal level. Judge the contents, not the packaging.

 

R.I.P. Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 20, 2020 by telescoper

I heard last night the sad news that saxophonist arranger and bandleader Jimmy Heath had passed away at the age of 93. Jimmy Heath was a terrific musician whom Miles Davis described as `one of the thoroughbreds’ and who performed on a huge number of really important records as leader or as sideman throughout a long career than spanned seven decades.

I spent last night going through the part of my record collection that I have here in Maynooth to select a track to play as a small tribute, and came up with this up tempo track on a Blue Note collection. It’s standard written by Harold Arlen called Get Happy. I hadn’t listened to it for ages and I’d forgotten how great it is. It was recorded in 1953 by a six-piece band led by trombonist Jay Jay Johnson, and featuring Clifford Brown (trumpet), Jimmy Heath (tenor saxophone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass, Jimmy’s brother*) and Kenny Clarke (drums). They’re all great musicians, and they make a wonderfully rich ensemble sound for a small band. Jimmy Heath plays a fine solo, rather typical of his early style (which, although he plays tenor sax rather than alto is clearly in the mould of Charlie Parker) and you also get the chance to hear the great Clifford Brown .

*Jimmy’s other brother Albert Heath was a fine drummer.

R.I.P. Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)

ADS and the Open Journal of Astrophysics

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by telescoper

Most if not all of the authors of papers published in the Open Journal of Astrophysics, along with a majority of astrophysicists in general, use the NASA/SAO Astrophysics Data System (ADS) as an important route to the research literature in their domain, including bibliometric statistics and other information. Indeed this is the most important source of such data for most working astrophysicists. In light of this we have been taking steps to facilitate better interaction between the Open Journal of Astrophysics and the ADS.

First, note that journals indexed by ADS are assigned a short code that makes it easier to retrieve a publication. For reference, the short code for the Open Journal of Astrophysics is OJAp. For example, the 12 papers published by the Open Journal of Astrophysics can be found on ADS here.

If you click the above link you will find that the papers published more recently have not got their citations assigned yet. When we publish a paper at the Open Journal of Astrophysics we assign a DOI and deposit it and related metadata to a system called CrossRef which is accessed by ADS to populate bibliographic fields in its own database. ADS also assigns a unique bibliometric code it generates itself (based on the metadata it obtains from Crossref). This process can take a little while, however, as both Crossref and ADS update using batch processes, the latter usually running only at weekends. This introduces a significant delay in aggregating the citations acquired via different sources.

To complicate things further, papers submitted to the arXiv as preprints are indexed on ADS as preprints and only appear as journal articles when they are published. Among other things, citations from the preprint version are then aggregated on the system with those of the published article, but it can take a while before this process is completed, particularly if an author does not update the journal reference on arXiv.

For a combination of reasons, therefore, the papers we have published in the past have sometimes appeared on ADS out of order. On top of this, of the 12 papers published in 2019, there is one assigned a bibliometric code ending in 13 by ADS and none numbered 6! This is not too much a problem as the ADS identifiers are unique, but the result is not as tidy as it might be.

To further improve our service to the community, we have decided at the Open Journal of Astrophysics that from now on we will speed up this interaction with ADS by depositing information directly at the same time as we lodge it with Crossref. This means that (a) ADS does not have to rely on authors updating the arXiv field and (b) we can give ADS directly information that is not lodged at Crossref.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

The Dvořák Requiem at the National Concert Hall in Dublin

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2020 by telescoper

Following my decision to see more live music in 2020, last night found me taking my seat at the National Concert Hall in Dublin for a performance of the Requiem in Bminor by Antonín Dvořák (Op. 89) featuring the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Philharmonia Choir conducted by Patrik Ringborg with solo vocalists Adrienn Miksch (soprano), Patricia Bardon (alto-, Julian Hubbard (tenor) and William Thomas (bass). The members of the choir were just taking their places as I sat down (as were other members of the audience).

I hadn’t heard Dvořák’s Requiem before last night’s concert. Indeed before I saw the advert for the concert I didn’t even know it existed. It just doesn’t seem to be performed vary often. Heaven knows why, because it’s actually rather wonderful. It does involve large orchestral forces, a full choir and a concert organ, but then so do many other works that are performed very frequently in concert halls around the world.

The Dvořák Requiem consists of thirteen sections divided into two Parts (with an interval between them) and is based on settings of the traditional Latin mass for the dead. The music lasts about 95 minutes altogether. The prevailing mood for Part 1 is at times mysterious, restless, questioning and reflective while Part 2 is much more affirmative, even at times joyous, with some uplifting (and wonderfully loud) tutti passages. Although ostensibly in a minor key, there’s much more of the feeling of a major key tonality during the later stages. Overall the piece ends up seeming more of a celebration of life rather than a lament for the dead. Throughout the piece there’s interesting interplay between choir, orchestra and soloists and it’s also very tuneful, as you would probably expect from Dvořák.

After a slightly hesitant start, both choir and orchestra soon got into the swing of things and produced a superb concert that ended up drawing a standing ovation from the audience in the National Concert Hall. Last night’s concert was, I’m glad to say, sold out.

Anyway, you don’t have to take my word for it: the whole concert is on Youtube (it starts about 3 minutes in).

P.S. You will soon see that the presenter last night was not the usual Paul Herriott, but Aedín Gormley.